FIFA president calls for emergency meeting to discuss Club World Cup expansion

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for an emergency meeting of the governing body's council to discuss a 25billion US dollars (€20.5billion) plan to overhaul the Club World Cup and set up a new national league.

Press Association Sport understands that the proposal, which was first revealed by The New York Times earlier this month, would see the current Club World Cup change from a seven-team tournament held every winter to a 24-team competition staged every fourth summer.

The first possible edition of the expanded tournament would be in 2021 and it would feature 12 European teams made up of the finalists from the four previous Champions Leagues and the four previous winners of the Europa League.

If, as likely, that did not add up to 12 different teams, the dozen would be completed by the next best-ranked teams according to UEFA. South America's Copa Libertadores would provide four more teams and Africa, Asia and North America would get two places each, with the champions of the tournament host and the winner of a play-off between a South American club and the Oceania champions getting the last two spots.

The teams would be split into eight groups of three, with the winners of each group then entering a straight knock-out tournament. Each team, therefore, would play at least two games and the finalists would play five.

FIFA believes the 31 games could be played in 18 days but, perhaps most importantly, generate €2.5billion - a massive increase on the value of the current Club World Cup.

The details of Infantino's new national league are sketchier but it is understood that the competition would involve leagues at confederation level - as UEFA and North and Central America's CONCACAF region have already scheduled - with the eight best teams then progressing to an international knock-out tournament.

The first edition of the "Final 8" would be in 2021 and it would be worth a guaranteed €800million in broadcast rights, with subsequent quadrennial tournaments worth almost €3.5billion.

All of these figures, however, are based on a rights offer from a mystery consortium of investors, which is understood to include SoftBank, the Japan-based technology conglomerate.

Under the proposed agreement, FIFA would cede control and all revenue streams to the investors in return for a guaranteed lump sum. This would enable Infantino to repair the damage caused to the governing body's bank balance by the 2015 corruption scandal and meet his 2016 election pledge of quadrupling the amount of development cash each member association receives - a timely boost ahead of his attempt to secure a second term as FIFA boss next year.

The plan, however, faces considerable opposition. When it was first raised at a FIFA Council meeting in the Colombian city of Bogota last month, UEFA representatives voiced their concerns about the new tournaments' potential impact on Europe's existing competitions and player burnout, while several councillors were annoyed that Infantino would not tell them more about the investors.

The president claimed he could not reveal more because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the group but said he wanted the council's backing to continue negotiations with the investors, as they wanted an answer within 60 days.

This apparent need for haste is why Infantino has now written to the other members of the 35-strong FIFA Council asking for a rare, emergency meeting in the coming weeks. It is understood it has been tentatively scheduled for mid-May.

In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said: "As agreed in Bogota during the last council meeting, the council members were given detailed information on the ongoing discussion with potential partners.

"A meeting with the confederations will take place in due course but no date has been set yet. Further consultation is also ongoing with the different stakeholders on potential changes to the FIFA Club World Cup."

- PA


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